Sam Watson, Short Story Winner
Sam Watson, Short Story Winner, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I started writing, albeit sporadically, when I was 18. My first attempt at fiction was written while on holiday in Spain – it was gibberish. Consistency at writing while at university was difficult but, in spite of distraction, I read obsessively throughout. Over the last year, I have developed better habits which has greatly increased my output. For me, creativity resides on the far side of the daily grind, so I try my best to write daily. Ideally in the early morning before having seen anyone other than my cat, who keeps me company while working.
- Are there any Short Story writers you would recommend?
I am currently working my way through Labyrinths (Borges) and a Penguin collection of Akutagawa’s short stories. In general, my perennial favourites are: Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, Carson McCullers, Italo Calvino, Paul Bowles and F Scott Fitzgerald. My favourite short story collection is After the Quake by Murakami.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Very invigorating, especially during a time when everything has felt very much in stasis.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Short Story?
The best thing: The opportunity to experiment with new ideas with more immediate feedback.
The hardest thing: Not being able to indulge all the ideas you may have for the story in order for it to work (and also to stick to the word count).
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
Most often, my favourite ideas grow out from an unusual fact, idea or turn of phrase. In this case, the inspiration was a bullet-point on the person specification of a job I was applying for. The fiction of a ‘Lived Experience of Mental Health’ reflects reality in that sense. I loved the contradictory nature of the term and have always wanted to write a story about stand-up. So, I found a way to combine the two.
After the initial reverie, it took three days to finish the story, writing primarily in the early morning and the evening. I find working on 100-word flash fiction pieces whenever I hit a wall on a longer piece helps me maintain momentum.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 1500-word short story?
Discursive flights of fantasy in the first draft but a steady course in the final. By then, everything included should be in service to the central idea. The shorter the piece, the more important this is.
I’ve always found it useful to visualise my ideal short story as ‘feeling’ like a perfectly spherical world. Suspended within a larger context, the core theme should pull every aspect into a formal unity. There will always be unnecessary lumps and bumps but the trick is knowing when to sand them away, no matter how beautiful they may initially seem.
So, in short, let your first draft be joyful, have an idea of what your ideal means to you, and as always, be prepared to ‘kill your darlings’.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The best thing: As someone who loves the art of fiction, it is always great to see how many other people care about it too.
The hardest thing: Nothing is as perfect as you might dream it of being, making it painful to click that submit button.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP?